Woman finds answers in father's 1983 murder, but no justice

Confession tape surfaces, but suspect never arrested

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Jessica Lauren has no memories of ever seeing her father. She was only 3 years old when he was shot and stabbed to death in their family's Hallandale Beach home.  

Now Lauren has old crime files and photos as mementos of her father, Eugene Hicks.

Some of the photos are pleasant and show them both smiling, but the ones that haunt her are those that show her father's dead body on the floor of their home, holes in his chest and blood splattered on the walls.

The 1983 homicide is now a closed case, but it is still officially unsolved. 

"The memory I have is the crime scene photos that the police handed to me that played like a broken record in my mind for years," Lauren said.

Lauren didn't see the crime scene photos until she was a young woman.

Detective Ron Beukers showed them to her in 2005 when she visited the Hallandale Beach Police Department with hopes of getting answers.

She said after Beukers showed her the disturbing crime scene photos, he told her that if she wanted to know what happened to her father, she should ask her mother.

"He was implying that my family members were responsible," Lauren said. "He looked me in the face and said, 'You know, your dad was not a good person. He kind of got what he deserved.' I was so devastated. I left there heartbroken, devastated (and) confused."

Lauren said nobody, including her father, deserves to be killed that way.

As she grew up, Lauren learned that her father, who was known as "Hickey," was often on the wrong side of the law and that he owned a business on the infamous Thunderboat Row, where he bought and sold and high-speed cigarette boats -- the kind used by drug smugglers at the height of the cocaine cowboy days.

"He liked fast boats, and with fast boats came fast money," she said. "I found out about my father. I found out he had a checkered past. I found out he did things he shouldn't have."

Authorities said Hicks was a player in the drug smuggling world. In fact, he was set to begin serving a four-year federal prison sentence on a marijuana smuggling conviction a couple of weeks before his death.

It was a high-profile case involving the notorious Boyd brothers, John Derrell and Tracy, who were accused in court of hiring assassins to kill witnesses in the case.

With no help coming from Beukers, Lauren was determined to find out who killed her father.

It was in that pursuit that she decided to become a television reporter -- a trade where she would learn investigative skills, where she could find out how to find things out.

She worked in TV markets across the country and the state of Florida, and kept digging into her father's murder case.

"I wanted to be a journalist because no one was going to give me the truth," she said. "No one was going to give my father justice or my family justice."

More recently, Lauren hired a seasoned First Amendment attorney, Thomas Julin, of Miami, who began working on obtaining information on the crime that the Broward County state attorney's office wouldn't give to her.

In 2015, prosecutors closed the case without making any arrests and began releasing parts of the crime file.

But it wasn't until recently, shortly before last Christmas, that she said she received a DVD in the mail that changed everything.

"I had no idea what was going to be on the DVD," she said. "I immediately played it."

On it was grainy video of Beukers interviewing a man named George Williams, a suspect in Hicks' death, who is now living in the small town of Greeneville,Tennessee. Beukers interviewed him at the Greene County Sheriff's Department in 2004.

"I'm here to talk to you about a homicide case that I think you may have wished would go away and never rear its ugly head," Beukers said to Williams.

Williams, a heavy-set factory worker who grew up in Hallandale Beach, initially denied knowing anything about Hicks or the murder.

Beukers, acting on a tip, asked Williams if he knew someone named Kenneth Bicking, who had been working for Hicks at the time of his murder and was an immediate suspect in the murder.

Police at the time questioned Bicking, but never followed up.

Bicking would later be implicated, though not convicted, in the 1993 murder of Colin Ridgway, a former Dallas Cowboys punter who was the first Australian to ever play in the NFL and a former Olympic high jumper. 

Williams said he had been friends with Bicking in his youth but didn't hang out with him much because Bicking was "off the wall, pretty wild" and "a little more flamboyant" than he. When Beukers told him he wasn't there to hurt him, but to build a case against Bicking, Williams soon admitted that he knew all about the homicide and had played a key role in the crime.

Williams, who had a couple of old burglary charges from his time in South Florida, told the detective that he agreed to give Bicking a ride on his motorcycle to Hicks' home in exchange for money, but said he didn't know Bicking was going to kill Hicks.

He said he knew Bicking was involved in Hicks' smuggling enterprise and that he figured Bicking was going to "pick up some coke."

Williams said Bicking went into the home and that he heard the "bang, bang, bang" of gunshots while he nervously waited outside. He said Bicking then came to the door and brought him inside, where he saw Hicks' bloody body lying on the floor.

"I could see the body moving," he told Beukers. "I know he was moving, and I know I told Kenny, I said, 'Kenny he's still alive.' He goes, 'OK.' I guess he went into a kitchen, and he had a knife, and he started stabbing him a bunch of times."

Williams chuckled while he described the scene.

"It was the awfulest thing I've seen in my whole life," Williams said. "(Bicking) said, 'There's a kilo of cocaine in this place and $40,000 in cash. We got to find that.'"

Williams admitted that he helped ransack the house and was careful not to leave any fingerprints.

"Just moved stuff with my fists," he explained to Beukers. "I'm not a criminal, but I know you don't want to leave fingerprints around either."

He said they found cocaine but not the cash. 

Williams said he had Bicking get on the back of his motorcycle and he sped over 100 mph on Hallandale Beach Boulevard to his mother's home, where Williams, who was then 23 years old, lived.

It was there that they divided up the cocaine, with Williams getting 3 ounces, which he said he later sold for roughly $5,000 that he used to buy a car.

He said he wasn't there when Bicking got rid of the gun, a silver .357 Magnum, but said he believed Bicking threw it into the water at the Aqua Golf driving range (featured in the film "There's Something About Mary") in Pembroke Park. The gun has never been recovered by police.

Williams claimed he didn't go to police because he was afraid of Bicking, but he didn't indicate that Bicking ever threatened him, other than to say that they were equally culpable in the crime.

"It's bad that I covered it up, that I didn't say nothing," Williams said. "(Bicking) said, 'You're a full accomplice to what we've done.' He said, 'You were with me all the way. If you ever say anything about this, you're going to get burned for it just as much as I am.'"

As she watched the interview, Lauren became furious. She noted that the video was made in 2004, meaning that the entire time Beukers was being evasive about her father's murder and implying that her mother and other relatives were involved, he already knew exactly who did it.

"That is horrible to do to a family," she said. "Maybe he's sadistic. Maybe he doesn't have the proper training. I have no idea."

A look at Beukers' investigative report on the case shows that he was indeed suspicious of family members. Of Lauren's inquiry in 2005, he wrote, "Why here, and why now? This detective felt that this visit was much more than a coincidence and became very suspicious of Ms. Lauren's visit."

Beukers confirms in the report that he gave Lauren no information on the case and recounts that in later discussions he felt Lauren; her mother, Debra Hicks; and her grandmother acted evasively.

"This causes this detective to be suspicious of Debra Hicks/Lauren's involvement," he wrote.  

Lauren points out the obvious: She was only 3 years old when her father was murdered. What possible involvement could she have had?

Beukers, now a sergeant, refused to comment when contacted by Local 10 News on the phone, saying that he needed permission from Hallandale Beach Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy to discuss the case.

Flournoy later gave Beukers permission to speak with the television station, but Beukers still declined an interview.

Even more troubling for Lauren than Beuker's behavior toward her family was the fact that Williams was never charged in the case. She said she is less concerned about Bicking because he is now serving a life sentence in Jacksonville after a rape conviction in 2011.

Williams, after all, confessed of his own volition to being involved in the murder, and to being the driver in what he believed was a criminal act, and admitted to being paid in cocaine for his role in the crime.

"(Williams) stood there and watched while Kenneth Bicking stabbed him until he stopped moving," Lauren said. "My dad lost his life, and he is allowed to go out into society. That guy walked right out the door."

Lauren learned that Williams is still living in Tennessee and emailed him but received no response.

"He had the guts to come into my home and kill my dad and destroy our family," she said. "He doesn't have the guts to talk to me. He's a coward."

Editor's note: Since George Williams avoided the daughter of the victim, Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman traveled to Tennessee to see if Williams would talk with him about the crime. You can see the explosive confrontation -- as well as an explanation from the state attorney's office as to why Williams wasn't charged in the case -- Friday night at 11 p.m.

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